The plant has numerous minutely barbed glochids (hairs) that are easily dislodged when the plant is touched and they then become stuck to the skin where they are difficult to see and remove. They can cause considerable discomfort
Fruit - raw, cooked or dried for later use
. Sweet and gelatinous
. Very refreshing, they are somewhat like a watermelon in flavour
. The fruits are up to 10cm long and 9cm wide
. Be careful of the plants irritant hairs, see the notes above on toxicity.
Pads - cooked and used like French beans. Watery and very mucilaginous.
Flowers - raw.
Seed - ground into a meal.
An edible gum is obtained from the stem
A gum is obtained from the stem. It is used as a masticatory or mixed with oil to make candles
. The juice of the boiled stem segments is very sticky. It is added to plaster, whitewash etc to make it adhere better to walls
The flowers and stems are antispasmodic, diuretic and emollient
. The split stems have been bound around injured limbs as a first aid measure
The flowers are astringent and are used to reduce bleeding and treat problems of the gastro-intestinal tract, especially diarrhoea, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome
. The flowers are also used in the treatment of an enlarged prostate gland
Seed - sow early spring in a very well-drained compost in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Give the plants some protection from winter wet. Make sure you have some reserve plants in case those outdoors do not overwinter.
Cuttings of leaf pads at any time in the growing season. Remove a pad from the plant and then leave it in a dry sunny place for a couple of days to ensure that the base is thoroughly dry and has begun to callous. Pot up into a sandy compost. Very easy, rooting quickly.
Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Opuntia ficus-indica. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.
Requires a sandy or very well-drained soil
. Prefers a pH in the range 6 to 7.5
. Plants must be kept fairly dry in the winter but they like a reasonable supply of water in the growing season. A position at the base of a south-facing wall or somewhere that can be protected from winter rain is best for this plant. Requires warmth and plenty of sun
. Plants tolerate considerable neglect
Cultivated in many warm temperate and sub tropical areas for its edible fruits
and its use as a stock-proof barrier, it is not very cold-tolerant and is unlikely to survive the winter outdoors in Britain. There are some named varieties
, one at least of which is free from spines and irritant hairs.
Problems, pests & diseases
Associations & Interactions
There are no interactions listed for Opuntia ficus-indica. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.
Polycultures & Guilds
There are no polycultures listed which include Opuntia ficus-indica.
This table shows all the data stored for this plant.
Material uses & Functions
Native Climate Zones
Adapted Climate Zones
Native Geographical Range
Root Zone Tendancy
? 1.01.11.21.31.4 Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
? 2.02.12.22.32.4 Simmons. A. E. Growing Unusual Fruit. David and Charles ISBN 0-7153-5531-7 (1972-00-00)
? 3.03.13.23.3 Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (1984-00-00)
? 4.04.14.24.34.4 Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening. Garden Way, Vermont, USA. ISBN 0-88266-064-0 (1978-00-00)
? 5.05.1 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
? 6.06.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
? 7.07.17.27.3 Polunin. O. and Huxley. A. Flowers of the Mediterranean. Hogarth Press ISBN 0-7012-0784-1 (1987-00-00)
? 8.08.18.2 Harrington. H. D. Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains. University of New Mexico Press ISBN 0-8623-0343-9 (1967-00-00)
? 9.09.19.29.39.4 Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
? 10.010.110.210.3 Balls. E. K. Early Uses of Californian Plants. University of California Press ISBN 0-520-00072-2 (1975-00-00)
? 11.011.111.211.3 Howes. F. N. Vegetable Gums and Resins. Faber ()
? 12.012.112.212.3 Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
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